3 Hot Picks For Cold-Weather Kentucky Waterfowl
October 04, 2010
By November, ducks and geese of all kinds are migrating through our state, sometimes in large flocks. Here are three prime places to intercept these birds right now! (November 2007)
Photo by R.E. Ilg.
This is the month we've waited for all year. It's time to kick off another waterfowl season. So grab the dog, some decoys, a hunting buddy or two and get at it!
The first arrival of early-season birds typically includes wood ducks, gadwall and teal. Later comes the contingent of mallards, then black ducks, and finally divers. Our early goose hunting is comprised primarily of resident birds, but then we'll start seeing a few migrants and even some snow geese over in the extreme western portion of the state.
The first part of the season can often be boom or bust, depending on the weather. Even when good numbers of birds arrive in the state, overly wet conditions can spread them out and make for difficult hunting. But when conditions are right, Kentucky waterfowlers can experience some fantastic early-season action.
Numerous locations across the Commonwealth, on both private and public lands, offer great November waterfowling.
Here's a look at picks with great public access, which may offer up some great hunting right now!
WHITE CITY WMA
Waterfowl hunters should find good fortune at this Hopkins County property in western Kentucky. The area is primarily reclaimed surface-mine property and is part of the Peabody Wildlife Management Area (WMA). This area has a great mixture of ponds and final cut lakes, which can be a haven for lots of ducks and geese.
There is also a major shallow-water area on the property, which attracts Canada geese as well as a good many different species of puddle ducks. This area is of decent size, even big enough to accommodate small boats. Of course, landlocked hunters may hunt there, too.
Early in the season, White City sees a fair number of teal and wood ducks. Later comes a heavy influx of mallards, as well as some gadwalls.
Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) waterfowl biologist Rocky Pritchert says there is also good population of resident geese in the area, and hunters may encounter them at White City as well.
The bird count can vary greatly depending on weather conditions. Last year, during routine periodic waterfowl counts, Slough WMA supervisor Mike Morton flew over the Pond River -- White City WMA in November. He reported a bird count of 67 dabbler ducks and 75 Canada geese. There were no diving ducks seen during this survey.
Personnel at the WMA have done some wetlands enhancement to attract and hold more waterfowl on the property. Enhancements have also been done on adjacent properties and also nearby refuge areas, which helps draw and hold a lot of waterfowl on and around the WMA.
White City gets a fair amount of hunting pressure, especially early in the season. Hunters must be mobile to find areas holding birds and be adaptable to changing conditions and hunting pressure. This is especially true for goose hunters.
As mentioned, this area is good for hunters who use boats or walk in. Temporary blinds may be used as long as materials are removed on a daily basis. If hunting pressure gets too severe in any one area, sportsmen always have the option of spilling over into the other vast units of the Peabody WMA. In all, there are around 60,000 acres. The White City unit comprises some 5,472 acres.
The area requires a special user permit prior to hunting. It costs $15 and may be purchased wherever hunting and fishing licenses are sold.
Waterfowl hunting at White City ceases at 2 p.m. each day. Maps of the area are available from the KDFWR, and also on the Web site. More information may be obtained by calling (270) 273-3568.
Additionally, hunters should be aware that the name of this property might possibly change in the near future.
DALE HOLLOW LAKE
This lake may see some increased waterfowl action this year, due to the lake level being down at Lake Cumberland. Straddling the Kentucky and Tennessee line, Dale Hollow is a somewhat broader and shallower lake than Cumberland. Dale Hollow can offer some decent waterfowl action, if conditions are right.
Periodically, Dale Hollow Lake can have good numbers of ducks present. Mostly, this means mallards and black ducks, especially early in the season. As the year progresses, hunters often will see scaup, buffleheads and even ringnecks.
Canada geese can be a hit-or-miss proposition, but they are there. Not a lot of geese are seen on the Kentucky side of the reservoir, but there are resident geese in the area. It's possible to encounter them moving around from time to time. Typically, many more geese are found on the Tennessee side of the lake.
Hunters need to remember that the lake does not have a reciprocal agreement for hunting as it does for fishing. Hunters must be licensed for the proper state, based on where on the lake they are hunting. Waterfowlers should always keep a lake map close at hand to know the boundaries.
Hunters also have the option of purchasing licenses for both states so they can hunt the entire reservoir. This tactic can come in particularly useful when birds are moving around a lot and hard to locate.
The lake is dotted with various islands. Some of the shallow flats around these islands can be real magnates for waterfowl.
Another tip is to key on vegetation. Dale Hollow has some submergent vegetation, which is usually still present until sometime in December. The ducks feed significantly on this vegetation early in the fall before it disappears. If hunters can locate this vegetation, they can usually score well on ducks.
Dale Hollow Lake gets a fair amount of hunting pressure, according to biologist Pritchert. It is a large lake, however, and he says it has more potential than what gets used.
Most hunting on the lake is done by boat. However, some shallow-water shoreline areas attract a good many birds. However, hunters should familiarize themselves with the lake regulations to know which areas they may legally hunt.
Obviously, information for the Kentucky side of the lake can be obtained from the usual KDFWR contacts. Hunters may also call the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at (931) 243-3136.
You can also learn more by visiting www.state.tn.us/twra, the state's Web site, or at www.tnwildlife.org.
This 20-mile-long lake near the town of Grayson amounts to some 1,510 acres of water.
Another 7,991 acres make up the Grayson Lake WMA. Waterfowlers can really do well here, depending on the season's conditions.
Grayson Lake gets a pretty good amount of early hunting pressure, as there are usually decent numbers resident Canada geese in the area.
Hunters may encounter these geese later on into the season as well, but after being shot at early, they become much smarter. Scouting is an absolute necessity.
Ducks like the Grayson area, too, and good numbers of birds can be found there at times. The dominant species encountered at the lake are mallards and black ducks. They tend to prefer the coves and backwater areas of the lake. But as with the geese, hunters must scout and do their homework to score.
Most waterfowl hunters like to target the shallow-water areas in the upper ends of these embayments or along the shoreline areas nearby.
Another popular hunting location is Rosedale Point. Hunters should be aware that the lake is closed to waterfowl hunting within 3/4 mile of the dam. The Deer Creek Branch of Grayson Lake is also closed to waterfowl hunting.
Waterfowl may be found at Grayson Lake most anytime, but the birds use the lake primarily as a loafing or roosting area. Hunting conditions typically get better later in the year, especially during severe cold spells. Grayson Lake is deep and one of the last water bodies in the area to freeze. It can quickly turn into a real "hotspot" when other areas lock up.
The Grayson Lake area is located in Carter and Elliott counties. There is a wildlife office in the area, which you can reach at (606) 474-8535 for more information on hunting Grayson Lake. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers owns and operates a portion of the area, and interested hunters may call the management office at (606) 474-5815.
BEFORE YOU GO
Prior to going hunting, don't forget to check the regulations at each of the above-mentioned areas. There's always the possibility of special regulations or areas closed to hunting. The hunting guide is a good place to start, but waterfowlers may want to contact the management office directly at the location being hunted.